Waste Management Phoenix Open 2021 DFS picks: Our expert’s favorite plays (and fades) in each price range
One of the most fun weekends is upon us—the Waste Management Phoenix Open always aligns with the Super Bowl, making it a glorious weekend for sports fans, gamblers and DFS players. Only a limited amount of fans will be admitted into the normally raucous event, but we’re sure the fans lucky enough to be there will make the atmosphere awesome. This is setting up to be another awesome week at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium course.
TPC Scottsdale has, historically, been a ball-striking paradise. In fact, my course modeling at RickRunGood.com determines that strokes gained/approach is not only the most important stat this week, but SG/approach is more important at TPC Scottsdale than any other course on the PGA Tour. Think about that: That’s one of the most predictive stats week to week, but this week, perhaps it’s the most important. That also passes the eye test when you look back at recent winners—Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland and Hideki Matsuyama (twice).
Rory McIlroy will make his debut at this event, and Tony Finau, a runner-up here to Simpson last year, has opted to play in Saudi Arabia. Even with Finau’s departure, it’s an absolutely stacked field that has plenty of top-10 players. We’re feeling confident about picking some contenders this week to make you some cash with your DFS lineups.
Here are my favorite plays (and a couple golfers most likely to disappoint) in each price range for the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Price range: $9,000 and above
High Upside: Justin Thomas ($10,800 DraftKings | $11,800 FanDuel)
Thomas didn’t tee it up last week in La Jolla as he made his trek back from the Middle East. Outside of his missed cut in Abu Dhabi, Thomas has been excellent. He has a top-12 finish in seven consecutive events prior to that missed cut. His record at this event isn’t as consistent as other top players, but he’s coming off back-to-back third-place finishes.
Safest Option: Webb Simpson ($10,100 DraftKings | $11,300 FanDuel)
Simpson is in the midst of a 12-event cut streak that has resulted in five top-10 finishes and 10 top-25 finishes. He is one of the best players in the world from the fairway to the green and is coming off a T-4 finish in Honolulu. Per the RickRunGood.com fantasy golf database, Simpson has scored at least 90 DraftKings points in five of his past six starts. Now he heads back to Phoenix to defend his 2020 crown.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Rory McIlroy ($10,600 DraftKings | $11,700 FanDuel)
Unfortunately for McIlroy, it’s “more of the same.” He’s routinely playing like the greatest golfer on Earth for spurts. He just cannot put it together for four rounds. It has now been 15 months since McIlroy’s last victory, and that’s really the only thing he is graded on. Being priced as one of the most expensive golfers in the field, you need to win (or close to it) to pay off that salary. As McIlroy makes his debut at TPC Scottsdale, the price is certainly becoming a concern.
Pick To Win: Xander Schauffele ($11,000 DraftKings | $11,600 FanDuel)
We are seeing an unbelievable evolution from Schauffele who started slow last week before grinding up the leaderboard on the weekend—finishing T-2 on a course that he struggled on in the past. That finish marks his 14th consecutive top-25 finish with seven top-10s during that stretch. He hasn’t earned an official PGA Tour win since the 2019 Sentry TOC, but that could certainly change this week in Phoenix. This will be Schauffele’s fourth time teeing it up at the Waste Management Open, with no finish worse than T-17 in the previous three.
$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Russell Henley ($8,200 DraftKings | $9,700 FanDuel)
Since the restart, Henley has averaged 1.08 strokes gained on approach per round. That’s the best mark of any golfer in this field—even JT, who led the tour in SG/approach last season. Henley’s irons are elite, and he comes to a course where that skill set should really thrive
Safest Option: Louis Oosthuizen ($8,900 DraftKings | $9,900 FanDuel)
Oosthuizen doesn’t play often, but when he does, he plays well! Coming off a T-29 finish at difficult Torrey Pines, he now has made the cut in 12 of his past 13 starts and has racked up six top-25 finishes during that stretch. This will only be his second trip to the Waste Management Open: He finished third in 2017.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Rickie Fowler ($8,600 DraftKings |$10,300 FanDuel)
When Rickie Fowler shows up in Phoenix, expectations are high—and rightfully so. The 2019 winner has five other top-15 finishes on his résumé, and he hasn’t missed a cut in six consecutive trips. The problem is that it feels like we’re far removed from that version of Rickie Fowler. He’s now lost strokes putting in three consecutive measured events, which would be almost unheard of for a putter as talented as Fowler. In fact, I could only find one other instance of him losing strokes putting for three straight events in my entire database, dating back to 2015.
Pick To Win: Bubba Watson ($8,500 DraftKings | $10,400 FanDuel)
Watson has been electric off the tee recently, gaining strokes in that category in 10 consecutive starts. He’s backed it up with excellent iron play and now heads to TPC Scottsdale, which has historically been a happy hunting ground for him. In 14 starts, Watson has six top-10 finishes, including back-to-back top-5s in the past two years. This feels like a great chance for him to break through and hoist the trophy for the first time in his career.
$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Henrik Norlander ($7,500 DraftKings | $8,900 FanDuel)
You normally wouldn’t expect a player ranked outside the top 100 in the world to put together multiple “ceiling” weeks in a row, but there’s something different about Norlander. Yes, he finished T-12 and T-2 the past two weeks, but I’m more focused on how he’s done it. The former Augusta State golfer was second in the field in strokes gained/tee to green at Torrey Pines, which is usually a consistent metric from week-to-week.
Safest Option: Brendan Steele ($7,400 DraftKings | $9,300 FanDuel)
Steele has been great in 2021, even if his T-4 at the Sony Open is viewed as a disappointment. He followed that up with a T-21 the following week at The American Express and can usually lean on his excellent ball-striking. Steele did miss the cut in his two most recent starts in Phoenix, but his history is consistent with high upside—making eight of 10 cuts including four top-six finishes in the process.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Wyndham Clark ($7,100 DraftKings |$8,700 FanDuel)
Clark has, admittedly, had an excellent start to his 2021 season. He’s made the cut in six of his past seven starts, plus a runner-up in Bermuda. However, his one weakness is the most important factor for success at TPC Scottsdale. Since the restart, Clark has lost 0.66 strokes on approach per round, by far, the worst of anyone in this pricing range. There is concern that his weaknesses get exposed this week.
Pick To Win: Max Homa ($7,900 DraftKings | $9,600 FanDuel)
You might not remember that Homa was on a torrid stretch before the shutdown last March. He had a five-event stretch from the Farmers Insurance Open to the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he earned a top 25 every week, with three top-10s during that period. After the restart, it was misery for Homa—but we are starting to see that resurgence again. He’s gone T-21 and T-18 in the past two weeks and ranked eighth in SG/approach at Torrey Pines. He will look to improve on his T-6 at the Waste Management from last season.
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Kevin Streelman ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,500 FanDuel)
Anytime you need a ball-striker with upside, call Kevin Streelman. Few golfers in this range can boast the top-10 potential that Streelman has—like he finished at Travelers, Workday and Safeway. He will need everything to go right to find his name on the first page of the leaderboard again, but that’s certainly within his range of outcomes.
Safest Option: Kyle Stanley ($6,700 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
I wouldn’t call Stanley “safe,” but he’s definitely worth a hard look at a cheap price. He’s missed three straight cuts here but won the event in 2012. He’s made five of his past six cuts, including a T-6 at the RSM Classic and a top 20 last week at the Farmers Insurance Open. He has the skill set that should be great at TPC Scottsdale—so when you throw all that together, you get a decent option at a decent price.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Harold Varner III ($6,700 DraftKings | $7,900 FanDuel)
I’m often left scratching my head with Varner, who by all accounts, has the skill set to succeed on the PGA Tour. He’s an excellent ball-striker, and we’ve seen him catch fire at times. Unfortunately, he has struggled to put it together lately. In his first start of 2021, he missed the cut last week. I’ll need to see signs of life in his game before investing.
Pick To Win: Matthew NeSmith ($6,500 DraftKings | $7,900 FanDuel)
NeSmith was dynamite with his irons last week, gaining at least 1.8 strokes per round on approach in each of the three measured rounds at Torrey Pines. That’s a huge accomplishment but shouldn’t be all that surprising for NeSmith who has been striking it well for the last year. He’s the definition of “Team No Putt,” as he’s lost strokes on the greens in seven of his past eight measured rounds. If he can putt to the field average this week, he will make noise.
Which Super Bowl prop bets have value? And is the over/under just a tad too high? NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund breaks down some fun Super Bowl angles (as well as the entire field at TPC Scottsdale) on this week's "Be Right" podcast. Click the above link to listen—and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts (click here)!
Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.